BRIAN Heruela typified the effort of San Miguel Beer’s bench unit that made the most of its extended playing time in the team’s 102-88 win over TNT KaTropa in Game Two of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Friday night.
Coming in averaging just 2.6 minutes in four games in the playoffs, the third-year point guard played 20 minutes and 44 seconds – his second most playing time this conference – on Friday night and helped turn the game around after a poor start by the starting unit.
“We had a bad start,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Sino ba nagbigay ng bad start? Starters namin. So I have to… kailangang humugot ako dito sa bench. That’s why I’m so thankful dahil even though hindi sila nakaka-score, they give enough energy to boost our defense.”
Heruela was a DNP-coach’s decision in Game One like Jay-R Reyes, David Semerad, Keith Agovida, and Arnold Van Opstal, who all saw action in Game Two.
“Every game naman, he always tells us just to get ready,” Heruela said of Austria. “Like tonight, he used us and good thing na we took advantage of the opportunity, especially we know Talk ‘N Text is a very strong team, so it’s a big lift off the bench namin. We can give the first group a rest as well.”
The 5-foot-10 Heruela, particularly for his part, played solid defense on TNT superstar Jayson Castro, who was held to just 14 points for the second straight game after making just five of his 14 shots in nearly 22 minutes of play as a starter.
“Personally, I’m just trying to do my best because we know Jayson is the best point guard in Asia, so I was just trying to make it tough on him a little bit,” Heruela said. “We were lucky that he’s not really making as much shots that he normally does.”
Heruela was scoreless after missing his four shots, but contributed four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
“It’s just right now, whatever I can do to help my team,” the Cebuano playmaker said. “I’m trying to get my offense going, but I couldn’t get one, so just make it up on the defensive end.”